Political Crime and the Memory of Loss

Political Crime and the Memory of Loss

John Borneman
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/13/2011
Format: paper 262 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-22351-7
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Loss is a fundamental human condition that often leads both individuals and groups to seek redress in the form of violence. But are there possible modes of redress to reckon with loss that might lead to a departure from the violence of collective and individual revenge? This book focuses on the redress of political crime in Germany and Lebanon, extending its analysis to questions of accountability and democratization in the United States and elsewhere. To understand the proposed modes of redress, John Borneman links the way the actors define their injuries to the cultural forms of redress these injuries assume and to the social contexts in which they are open to refiguring. Borneman theorizes modes of accountability, the meaning of "regime change" and the American occupation of Iraq, and the mechanisms of democratic authority in Europe and North America.

Author Bio

John Borneman is Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His books include Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, Nation and Syrian Episodes: Sons, Fathers, and an Anthropologist in Aleppo.


"The juxtaposition of the German and Lebanese examples brings a unique perspective, one that is highly relevant in the contemporary world as we seek understanding of Europe’s relationship to the Middle East. Borneman provides insights on the ways these societies are working out the residues of war and violence. . . . The notion of 'political crime' is ground-breaking in its attention to not only state-sponsored violence but that aimed toward the state." —Deborah Reed-Danahay, University at Buffalo, SUNY

"Analytically ambitious, drawing on classic and recent anthropology as well as political science and psychoanalysis. . . . [Borneman] demonstrates how anthropologists can add something to [debates about] some of the important political questions of our time." —Tobias Kelly, University of Edinburgh

"Borneman has produced an important book, and his discussion of modes of accountability and their significance in assessing and comparing political crimes and their ongoing memory is very useful." —

"[This]book . . . is highly relevant to a number of regional and investigative arenas, including psychological and political anthropology, as well as history, gender, and the study of violence, trauma, and reconciliation. In also seeking to bring classic anthropology into conversation with critical forms of contemporaneous anthropology, the book also serves as an example for the continuing relevance of anthropology in public and international debates." —American Ethnologist

"[T]his is an engaging, often idiosyncratic, and consistently provocative collection of essays." —PoLAR

"John Borneman’s book provides a series of thoughtful and wide-ranging reflections on ethics and politics, drawing on scholarship in anthropology, social and political theory, and psychoanalysis, as well as extensive ethnographic fieldwork. . . . Expansive in scope, each essay is clearly written and insightful, and will appeal to a wide range of scholars concerned with issues of memory, accountability,

democratization, and international geopolitics, as well as the histories and politics of Europe and the Middle East." —
Intl Jrnl Middle East Studies

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Table of Contents

Preface: Political Crime and the Memory of Loss

I. Accountability
1. Modes of Accountability: Events of Closure, Rites of Repetition
2. On Money and the Memory of Loss
3. Public Apologies, Dignity, and Performative Redress
4. Reconciliation after Ethnic Cleansing: Listening, Retribution, and Affiliation
5. The State of War Crimes following the Israeli-Hezbollah War
6. Terror, Compassion, and the Limits of Identification: Counter-Transference and Rites of Commemoration in Lebanon

II. Regime Change, Occupation, Democratization
7. Responsibility after Military Intervention: What is Regime Change? What is Occupation?
8. Does the United States want Democratization in Iraq? Anthropological Reflections on the Export of Political Form
9. The External Ascription of Defeat and Collective Punishment

III. An Anthropology of Democratic Authority
10. What do Election Rituals Mean? Representation, Sacrifice, and Cynical Reason
11. Politics without a Head: Is the Love Parade a New Form of Political Identification? (with Stefan Senders)
12. Is the United States Europe’s Other? On the Relations of Americans, Europeans, Jews, Arabs, Muslims

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